Friday, September 10, 2010

Life Too Short

I've had a couple of reminders this week that sometimes life is shorter than we expect. The first is an MS I am reading for a friend that I am not at liberty to discuss, except to say it's a tear-jerker. But Wednesday, at Chapter by Chapter I got my first sighting of a sad tale. I should probably start at the beginning...

Last Spring I signed up for a contest where participants were supposed to submit their 'first choice prize' as well as enter. I put that I wanted a Chapter 1 review. I was contacted a little while later by Callie from Chimera, a group of editors who were trying to get going with an editing gig. Initially my interactions were all with Callie (Callie is the name of the Grey's Anatomy character I identify with, other than that whole lesbian thing, by the way... erm... and my cat, though she is Cali... but I digress...)

Anyway... I WON the critique from them and got critiques from Callie, Erica (who's become a good blogger buddy and the way I learned all this) and Zellie (about whom this tale is about to become—was that an awkward phrase, or what?). The critiques have been very helpful... if I'd only now apply it forward through the rest of the MS... but really, this is more about connections made.

Zellie Blake

I learned Wednesday that Zellie had lost a battle with cancer. Zellie was young and healthy, and the cancer was rare and unexpected. Like so many of us, Zellie was a writer. I encourage you to read through Erica's posts about some of her inspiring last months and the writing accomplishments (including meeting one of her idols—being featured in an article he wrote) and publishing her book with all proceeds to go to cancer research. I only had a couple emails exchanged with Zellie—I didn't know her well. But I can see how she impacted the lives of people I care about, so Zellie, you will be missed.

It got me thinking... (this... and that super secret project I am giving a hand on)

If you know your time is short... what REALLY matters? What is it you have to get done?

Who would you want to see?
Who would you want to MEET?
What legacy would you feel compelled to leave?

Me? I would definitely take a trip back west... hold parties in Moscow and Portland, urging people I've known to come, but I'd also have some serious small group bonding with closest friends and family. I'd work things out with my mom... and make her promise to play nice with my husband, because he'd be in charge of whether her grandkids ever saw her.

If I could SWING IT, I'd meet JK Rowling, Peter Straub, Tom Robbins, Stephen King—any of the Pythons... and I'd try to meet as many of my writer friends as I could.

And I would DEFINITELY try to get the books I've already written cleaned up, but short of that, I would leave my PLANS with the Burrow with my wishes to split proceeds between them and my family if they managed to get anything published.

What about all of you? If you KNEW life would be short, what would you be sure to fit in? I think Zellie did a stellar job with the time she had.


Roland D. Yeomans said...

I would want to roam the wilderness areas of New Zealand. It has always been my dream to go there.

Who would I want to meet? I'd want to see, really see, each person I met in my travels : see beneath the surface to their loneliness or their joy for life. Each regular person would be a breath of normalcy that would help me forget that my body had become a taxi cab meter running down its last minutes.

I would want to breathe each breath, feel each breeze that stroked my cheek, and walk humbly and intimate with The Father.

But I'm part Lakota -- we see life and death as a circle of seasons. In one of my stories, I have Death tell a protesting woman, "I give to everyone equally. I give them a lifetime."

Ted Cross said...

That is so sad, and reminded me of a similar experience. I was working as as a consultant for a company and there was a fiery young redhead working as part of the group. Only a year later I heard that she had passed away from Leukemia. It just seems so wrong.

Anyhow, I suppose I have accomplished most of what I want in life except to become a published author and watch my children grow up.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Now if that was not a tear-jerker. If I knew I had only a few months to live, I would probably just fill it with great memories for my kids. And write them lots of letters that they could read as they grew older.

Anonymous said...

It is kind of impossible to really answer this question without being put in this position, but I would like to think I would do exactly what I do anyway. I try to make sure I work toward the things I want.

Will Burke said...

Double-check my insurance, finish my book, book the time off to spend with family, and find a way to reunite my old band.

Will Burke said...

And I'd try to meet Slash & Joe Perry of Aerosmith :) IiiI;) (that one'[s a top hat)

Hart Johnson said...

Roland-I love that Circular view of things. I also like the idea of somehow being able to really see people.

Ted-it's wonderful to feel like you've accomplished so much already! Congrats on that!

Rayna-Oh yes... the letters for the kids are BIGGIES!

Cassandra-excellent way to live!

Hart Johnson said...

Will-you snuck in there! Old band! Oh that would be great--maybe record a couple songs. And I'm a Steven Tyler fan myself.... love a man in touch with his inner tart!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I wouldn't worry about writing, but I'd press to do as many of my motivational talks across the country as possible, to inspire others.
I would also travel.
And I would spend every moment of those last days with my husband.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

That's so sad...too young to die.

I think I'd want to travel and spend time with family and friends.

Clarissa Draper said...

I heard about Zellie and found it so sad.

Who would you want to see? This would be a what. I would love to travel more before I die.
Who would you want to MEET? Authors? Well, I guess Val McDermid.
What legacy would you feel compelled to leave? I've begun a novel for my son. I would love to finish it.


Not Hannah said...

I think I'd want to see my family and friends all the time. That would include meeting some interwebby friends.

Old Kitty said...

Oh I am so sorry to hear about your friend, Zellie Blake. My deepest sympathies to her family and friends.

Congratulations with your critique win! That's great news.

I would like to say that if I knew my life was short that I would live it as honestly as I could and not as others expect me to be.

Take care

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So sorry to hear about Zellie.
I'd seek out friends and family, do some traveling. There would also be many episodes of nakedness with my wife!

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Awe, thank you for posting about Zel today. Her impact has been found all over the place and in every single corner it seems she touched lives far beyond what seems...reachable.
I'm gonna just skip those questions 'cause well, I'm drained from thinking about death. But I will say she did everything that she COULD with the time she had and made the best of it, which is what I would hope to do.
Thanks again!

Dawn said...

How sad about Zellie :-( And a reminder that life is fleeting.
I found my husband late in life so spending as much time with as possible would top my list. I would stay home and write as I long to do, and travel wherever my limited funds would take me.
And, I would read. A lot.

As for authors I would want to meet (aside from my amazing bloggy friends...) - Nora Roberts. Stephen King. Maggie Stiefvater (because I am currently obsessed with Shiver), and Chelsea Cain. Absolutely Chelsea Cain.

Hart Johnson said...

LDiane-so interesting that the motivational speaking sounds like it is more central to you (maybe touching others more directly?) I am a hard copy gal...

Elizabeth-travel WITH family and friends... THAT would be ideal--take a large group somewhere really cool, though that takes resources...

Clarissa-You've reminded me I want to write my grandpa's story! We write, but a few of the stories are more central than others, yes?

NH: All the time, eh? Man, I need some DOWN time!

OK-thank you! And yes--and honest life is good... maybe more honest than we are when we know we have to live with the consequences of what we say...

Alex-YAY for nakedness!!! That is definitely the best way to spend time!

Erica-it really sounds like she DID do all she could. It is very inspiring, even while it is very sad.

Dawn-I think there is something to be said for getting to choose your partner when you have a little wisdom--wonderful that he is such a good match.

Talli Roland said...

Zellie sounds like an inspiration! I would definitely like to get as much published as I can. And also travel everywhere to spend time with my family, all over the world. And EAT A LOT!

Lisa said...

It's always a wake up call to learn of a young person's death.

Honestly - were I to know that my time is short, I think I would spend too much time making sure that things were arranged for my husband and children, I'd write my last blog post and spend as much time as possible with the people I love.

I'd purchase a headstone that reads "Next time, I'm following my dream."

February Grace said...

I read about Zellie the other night and it really got to me. I feel cheated that I never got to know her- she was obviously an amazing person. I've been thinking about her all week.

I've been in a couple situations in my life healthwise where, at least during long hours of testing phases (and of course during/after the stroke) then things were bad and I asked myself similar questions. Since I've heard about Zellie, I've been asking myself again, and for me it comes down to this.

Don't leave anything loving unsaid.

Don't let the noise of the chatter in the world, online or off, steal a moment you could be spending with someone who really loves you no matter what.

Write more letters.

I am grateful that I got to raise my daughter to the point she'd remember me, and I think that she would be the best thing I ever did for the world.

I've met a few celebrities, in my time- by and large, it's no big thing. Real people are much more interesting to me. There's one person I've wanted to meet for a long time- a really dear, longtime online friend who lives on the other side of the globe.

That friend decided recently, given all my issues, that they are going to travel all the way here to see me. This month.

I'm really glad that they're not putting off the trip.

Thank you for the touching post, Hart, and I'm sorry for everyone who is mourning Zellie. I wish she'd had more time but you're right, she sure did a lot with the time she was here. What a special person.

I read the first three chapters of her book on her site, by the way, and I hope to pick up a copy of the whole thing soon. What an amazing gesture to give the money from the books to the Cancer Society- Zellie is still giving, even now.


Jan Morrison said...

well, being a Buddhist (which means obsessed with death) I've given this lots of thought. I think - stay at home and write what I can and connect with my family and friends. Spend as much time on the water as possbile and practice for long hours a day...
I love travel but not when I'm sick and I think the new isn't what I'd be after - it would be love and creativity...
Thanks for reminding us that death is inevitable and life is precious.

Deb and Barbara said...

I lost a dear friend to cancer when she was 39. It was brutal. Made me realize that I want to always live my best because you never know.

Oh, and travel.

xo B

Hart Johnson said...

Talli--YES! Eat a lot! Time to stop worrying where the calories will hide!

Lisa-I'd actually spend a lot of time and energy into setting my family in the right direction, too... I handle ALL our stuff. If I died suddenly my husband would have a heck of a time, honestly. And start following your dream THIS time, sister!

Bru-very wise words! And WONDERFUL that your friend is coming to see you! I've actually met a couple from across the planet, too (most notably, possibly, my friend BrioNI came from Australia, though she was meeting a BUNCH of friends.. but she did venture to Michigan for me--you know as well as I do, nobody comes to Michigan unless they love somebody here)

Jan-I love the Buddhist wisdom. Love and creativity... I might add legacy to that, because I sort of like being the center of attention, but you hit the core things.

Barbara-SO SO hard when it is a loved one and they are so young. A very good lesson to learn though.

Helena said...

My heart goes out to Zellie's loved ones. She lived her short life so well.

Some years ago I had a couple medical scares (scares, not the real thing) and had to think about what I'd do if my life was going to end, like, REAL SOON! At least talking with people I love woulda been free. Scary part? That I had no money to do the stuff I really wanted to do, like travel or see loved ones who were far away.

Cheeseboy said...

So sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. One of my first blog followers and friends lost a battle with cancer recently and it was much tougher than I thought it was going to be. Funny how close we get to our best blogger friends.

Raquel Byrnes said...

I think I would go with Rayna's idea and spend as much time as possible making great memories. I would want to go to all the places we dreamt of going...the jungle, the ice hotel, to see ruins. And the letters, of course. Happy letters!

Edge of Your Seat Romance

Hart Johnson said...

Helena-I hope your health scares are over! I hear you on the 'no money for what you really want' though--especially if you don't want to leave your loved ones with a sea of debt.

CB--the blog friends DO get to be close friends, don't they?

Raquel--HERE'S to the happy letters... the EVENT letters for the kiddlies...

LTM said...

unexpected loss can really knock you for a loop. Last year we lost an elementary school principal here to swine flu (yes!) and I was surprised how hard I took it. We weren't close friends, just coworkers (she sent me PRs for But it was tough. It was part of what made me finally get over myself and try writing these books NOW...

I'm so sorry you're going through this. Hang in there~ ((hugs))